Friday, October 31, 2008
White sheets, gore and ghost stories -
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Pricing in Chinese stores is always a bit haphazard. It's often not clear if the tags refer to the items above or the items below. Many items appear not to be marked at all. In many cases there is a cluster of tags (many of them out-of-date?), so that you can't be sure which one is supposed to refer to the item you're interested in. And they're in Chinese only - and invariably hand-written, in a profuse, tiny, crabby script that I'm sure even Chinese find next-to-impossible to read.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Fate, like a monstrous pigeon,
Soars high above our heads,
Takes careful aim,
Waits and waits for the perfect moment
To unleash its horrid liquid bombs;
And all too late we realise
Why people wore hats in the '50s.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
There are supposed to be laws prohibiting the carrying on of noisy work in residential areas between the hours of 11pm and 7am, but it is dashed difficult to obtain any enforcement of these. I have mostly been going to bed too late and too exhausted over the past week to notice how late or how noisy the work is at night; but there have certainly been at least a couple of nights when substantial noise has been produced all night, with delivery lorries and plant moving about, the shouting of orders, the occasional chime of pick-axes and the lusty singing of songs like 'Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go' (or maybe I just dreamed that bit?). At least the rattling of the two or three pneumatic drills that are in use around the back of the building seems to have been stilled at night. It has, however, been going from early in the morning and with very little respite during the day. How I have come to delight in the little oases of silence that come at noon and 6pm when the workers take their meal breaks!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I'd realised some weeks ago that I just wasn't going to be able to get in any kind of shape to attempt the full distance, and - with my recent run of ill health - even half-distance might have been a bit too much of a challenge.
It's also a problem that it falls so close to my birthday: last year it was the day after, this year the day before. At this time of the year, I'd really far rather concentrate on getting together with friends for a few drinks than trying to run 26 miles.
I was, however, rather startled to realise that the event had slipped so far from the forefront of my mind (where it had been for a couple of months or so, until just two or three weeks ago) that I hadn't even remembered it was happening this Sunday.
A gorgeous day they managed for it as well (still using that Olympic Weather Machine, I guess). However, after watching a few videos of it on YouTube this afternoon, I am pretty thankful I didn't attempt it. The Beijing Marathon prides itself on being much the biggest race in China, and perhaps in the whole of Asia. It only achieves this by press-ganging tens of thousands of senior high school and university students into taking part - most of whom have never run more than a kilometre or two in their lives. In any big race it is a problem to fight your way through the crowds of runners in the early stages; but in Beijing, it seems to me, the crowds of competitors are even thicker, even slower-moving. And, with so many inexperienced and inadequately prepared runners taking part, there is, inevitably, a huge dropout rate - which does become rather dispiriting: in the second half of the race, you seem to be constantly passing scores of people who've slowed to a walk or a hobble, or had to give up completely because of cramps or muscle tears. (Warning: Turn down the volume control on your computer. These clips of last weekend's race are accompanied by the grisly Mandopop Olympic anthem One world, one dream. I'm sorry.)
So, maybe it's better to avoid the Beijing Marathon. But I'd like to do at least one more marathon in my life. Maybe the Great Wall event next May??
Monday, October 20, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
A couple of days ago, my peregrinations around YouTube brought me to this: a tuxedoed William "The Shat" Shatner performing an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Elton John song Rocket Man (in a TV show of the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards - I suppose this would have been in a career lull for him, between the cancellation of the Star Trek TV series and the beginning of the film franchise). It's not quite so awe-inspiring as his version of Pulp's Common People that I found earlier this year, but it is.... interesting. It is, I gather, quite notorious in American popular culture, but it was a new discovery for me.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
1) A change of air
5) Manual labour
8) Good whisky
9) A good night's sleep
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I love that phrase "My luck is at the bottom of the sea". I find it a useful brake, sometimes, on my own self-pity; whenever I may be tempted to say it of myself, I am reminded that things could really be oh so very much worse.
Moonrat, by the way, has been running a 'favourite poems' thread this week. I've just added this there as well.
I found the letter in a cardboard box,
Unfamous history. I read the words.
The ink was frail and brown, the paper dry
After so many years of being kept.
The letter was a soldier's, from the front -
Conveyed his love and disappointed hope
Of getting leave. "It's cancelled now," he wrote.
"My luck is at the bottom of the sea."
Outside the sun was hot; the world looked bright;
I heard a radio, and someone laughed.
I did not sing, or laugh, or love the sun.
Within the quiet room I thought of him,
My father killed, and all the other men
Whose luck was at the bottom of the sea.
Clifford Dyment (1914-1971)
Saturday, October 11, 2008
10 jobs I thought I was going to be doing this month
7) Recruitment consultant
8) Recording listening practice exams
9) Film star
(I've told this story before. The project we'd been discussing was supposed to have been a three-week shoot, starting at the end of September and running on to around about now. I had been promised a meeting with the director a month ago, but it never happened. I tried chasing up the production assistant I'd met, but she didn't answer any of my calls or respond to my text messages. I probably talked myself out of consideration with my rather obvious lack of enthusiasm in that first meeting.....)
10) Travel writer
(This doesn't sound all that promising: negligible pay, and a rather uncertain promise of 'full reimbursement' of expenses. Nevertheless, it would be an interesting new departure for me, so I've put in an enquiry. I'm waiting to hear back. Waiting......)
Yep, I originally said there were going to be 10 items on this list. Then I ran out of steam a bit, and called it a day at 8. Then I remembered these last two. There are actually a couple more as well, new editing job prospects that look to be going nowhere. I fear I am staring into the abyss rather. Starting to wonder if it isn't time to try out a new country......
Friday, October 10, 2008
Ah, Beijing traffic! And that's the relatively un-busy West 4th Ringroad at a non-peak time of day! (My mistake! I'm so unfamiliar with the west side of town, I think my mind tends to exaggerate how far away it is. This is, in fact, the 3rd Ringroad - which does get pretty busy..... though not at 2pm.)
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
The blog is, as he says, a collection of -
Comments, short essays, anecdotes and quotations on language, literature, politics, food, the arts and almost anything else. Some are quite serious but most are not: caveat lector. (Updated every two days or so.)
OF:...trivialities, pastiches, parodies, anecdotes, bons mots, spoofs, trouvailles, plagiarisms, causeries, reviews, pensées, abstracts, recollections, aperçus, short essays and quotations.
Monday, October 06, 2008
And I found a swish little boutique called....... Wanko.
Firefox has been badgering me to accept an "upgrade" for a few weeks now; and I didn't want to turn it down conclusively, in case one day I might possibly feel confident enough to check out the new stuff; but, for now, I preferred to postpone the decision, because of a nagging dread - a near certainty - that the new stuff would, at best, clutter up the interface with lots of superfluous new icons, and, at worst, interfere with the smooth functioning of my favourite browser (and my favourite proxy).
Well, somehow or other, over the weekend the new stuff got installed. Did I somehow click on the wrong button in my impatience to get on with my Web browsing? Maybe so; but I really rather think not. Does the dratted program just load itself - Trojan-style - after the 10th or 20th time you've hit the 'Not now, maybe later' button on the pop-up? Yes, I'm getting paranoid again. But 'they' are out to get me!!!
And guess what? Yep, Firefox now crashes on start-up. Every bloody time.
For now, Blogspot is still - remarkably! - unblocked in China. However, I'm sure this is just a temporary oversight by the Kafka Boys, and the Great FireWall will soon be reset to its pre-Olympic level of 'Maximum Annoyance', blotting out all of my favourite blog reads (including my own, of course). And I can't use Wikipedia without a proxy.
Life without Firefox and FoxyProxy is..... just.... not..... liveable!
Bugger, bugger, bugger.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Are astronauts really
Always on time?
Or is the waitlessness
Just an illusion?
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Why has that been playing on my mind so much lately???